By Neha Aggarwal
Standing 5”4 tall, weighing around 52 kgs, left handed shake hand grip player with short pimples on the forehand- Yanfei Shen is a perfectly assembled player possessing the physical and technical attributes to succeed in women table tennis.
The 3 time ITTF World Tour women singles champion is here in Philadelphia to compete in her final match of her career.
In the groups stage here in Philadelphia, she beat USA’s Wu Yue in straight games, however, she bowed down to the young and powerful Romania’s Samara Elizabeta.
Post her match, she looked totally relaxed. She smiled and said “For me it’s fine. This is my last tournament. I am going to retire after this tournament. I have two children and I have to take care of them. So I don’t feel too bad.”
Tears rolled down her eyes as she explained further.
“My daughter is 7 years old and my son is 2 years old, both go to school now. In China the language is hard to learn and thus I need to be with them to take good care of them. I don’t have time to practice two times a day.”
Interestingly, in 2010, 9 months after the birth of her first child, Yanfei Shen returned back to international scene and clinched women’s singles title at the ITTF Korea Open World Tour in 2010.
Since then she has also won the ITTF World Tours in Japan and Germany in 2012.
Post retirement she plans to settle down in Qingdao, port city in China’s eastern Shandong province. She owns a table tennis club in the city where around 200 people of all ages train. She hopes to be a good manager in the club. Coaching is not something she is looking for.
In the 2012 Women’s World Cup she won the bronze medal winning against Singapore’s Feng Tianwei. She was trailing 1-3 and went on to winning the match 3-4 (5-11, 11-5, 11-2, 11-6,8-11, 5-11, 9-11). Shen describes this as being the most memorable match of her life ever. She says, “I have played many good matches but this one particular match is very special to me”
Shen has also been a very successful doubles player. She is 4 times ITTF World tour women doubles title holder with Gao Jun of USA. After winning the 2005 Would Tour Grand Finals women doubles title with Yanfei Shen, Gao Jun described her as the “giant killer” because of her forehand kills. Shen is also the reigning European Women’s doubles champion partnering Turkey’s Hu Melek.
In Philadelphia, she will now play the round of 16 against Germany’s Solja Petressa. Both the players have never competed on the world stage. This may, or may not be Yanfei’s final match. When will the curtain be drawn? Tomorrow is the day?
If not tomorrow, definitely on the 9th as she will finally bid adieu to the game that she adored so much and gave meaning to her life.
“You know Qingdao beer? Its world famous” she says as she leaves….